Per Stefan’s suggestions, when our guide Jenny showed up at the Airport Hilton we headed out to the Flea Market and Temples. I was not impressed with the market, but I gave two US quarters to a vendor who was interested in my pocket change. He spent about 10 minutes studying them after we left him. He gave me a souvenir and I bought several old Chinese coins for our collection. Katy picked up a pocket size copy of Chairman Mao’s teachings for 15 Yuan, or about $3. The exchange rate is about 6.40 yuan per US dollar. It was hot and humid and not all that unique except for the fact that we were in China at a flea market.
We had lunch at a traditional Old Beijing restaurant courtyard setting and I found the food very tasty and plentiful. We had four dishes: pork, scallops, beef, and chicken, plus two bowls of noodles and diet cokes for the four of us for 196 yuans. And the servers were not allowed to take a tip. Jenny explained that some owners just won’t let their waitresses accept tips. Makes no sense to me but I’m in somebody else’s country and playing by their rules.
Jenny is 28, married, and a handful of mischievous entertainment. She will be a welcome addition to our group — extremely helpful and fun to be with. Our driver does not speak a lick of English but seems happy with what he is doing. The traffic is awful but the air quality is not as bad as I expected.
The Lama Temples were OK. Built in the 1700s, there are numerous buildings and Buddhas throughout the complex. The most outstanding is a 28 meter high Buddha made from one single piece of sandalwood. The Guinness Book of World Records plaque is prominent outside the temple. It was just OK from our point of view, but it seems to hold great significance to the people of Beijing.
Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Wanfujing, is somewhat dated but clean and in a bustling neighborhood. They could only find one room of our two-room reservation. With the language barrier I was somewhat concerned until the clerk located the other room. Jenny assures us we can wander the neighborhood without any hesitation or concern. We’ll wait for Andrew to show up and make an easy evening of it since tomorrow is our big field trip to the Great Wall of China. We are not going to a touristy spot but out in the wilds of the country side where we will have a 10-minute wait to the wall then climb it by ladder. I can’t wait to send you all that photo.
All is well. There is no feeling of culture shock at this point and we are well rested.